Enjoy your exchange life in Maastricht!

Here comes the last blogging about my exchange journey in Maastricht.

4 Months here passed so fast as if I have just arrived few days ago. As an international student from Hong Kong, it is my first time in Europe, explaining why I’m always travelling around and didn’t spend much time here. (I regret now!!!)


Maastricht is just so close to other countries like Belgium and Germany, and I can stay maybe it’s one the most convenient place to get around Europe. (Full details about transport can refer to the post about “Transport”).

Just take the bus from the station, we can get to Aachen (Small town in Germany) in around an hour then switch to Cologne for flight. Or just stop in Vaals to walk around the boarders of the three countries!

Sometime it’s just easy to take the train to Brussels in 1.5 hours by switching in Liege, the two Brussels airports are too convenient to get to, and many cheap flights fly from there!

If to fly from Netherlands, just get to Eindhoven in an hour or Amsterdam within 3 hours. Remember to get a group ticket so that you can hop-on and hop-off different stops as many times as you wish within the day! (But NS train seems having an intention to cancel the group ticket offer from January 2016, but something new will be coming out! So don’t miss that!)

 


Maastricht has a lot of good cafe if you would love to get a coffee!
Here I have some recommendations!

1. Tea Zone
Best if you love tea, especially chinese tea and fruit tea! Also the scone and greentea white chocolate cake are awesome!
thumb_IMG_6507_1024

2. Taart 
The cheese cake here is the best, so smooth and not that sweet! Also try the smoothies which are refreshing. People also have high tea here but have to reserve in advance.


3. Alley Cat
A cafe with “Bicycle” as the theme. So nice and quite for a rest or revisions! The apple muffin is so nice and crunchy, just like an apple crumble but way much better!

4. KOFFIE Bomb
This could be the best coffee and peaceful atmosphere, which is always crowded with people.

5. Cafe Zondag
The salmon bagel and sandwich are really nice and fresh! Get one on sunday and chill for the whole day!

6. Chocolate Company
Choose whatever taste of chocolate spoon you want and melt it with hot milk form! But it’s difficult for me with so many choices; but the black and white chocolate and 40% ones are really nice with strong chocolate flavour!

Or if you are an ice-cream lover, you have to go to Australian which is near the City Hall to grasp the best mango sorbet and belgium chocolate ice cream! People also recommend Luna Russa but I definitely go for the former!

After chilling for the whole day, just walk around the city and watch a movie. Every Tuesday the cinema promotes the ticket which you can get at 5euro!


Of course, as an exchange student, travelling is mandatory, haha!

For the weekend, just go to Belgium which I highly recommend Bruges and Ghent. They are actually quite similar to Maastricht with all the canals and rivers channeling the whole city, peaceful though!

For Aachen, Cologne and Dusseldorf, just get on the bus to Aachen and change to train. It’s the fastest way to satisfy your need for German taste and the Cologne Cathedral definitely worths a visit and the restaurant near the river has the best and traditional pork trotters and so do the best ramen at Naniwa Noodles and Soup!

Also, just go to anywhere you wish during your stay and make good use of the time! I went to Barcelona, Switzerland, England, Croatia, Iceland… but to be frank, staying in Maastricht and exploring Netherlands is another good choice!

Enjoy your exchange journey and let it be the best memory in life!

Advertisements

Study in Maastricht

UM is known as the university with Problem-based learning (PBL) way of study. It’s weird and unusual to me as there is definitely no such thing in Hong Kong, even we have tutorials but the style is utterly different.
I took the course of Culture, Economies and Politics of Contemporary Asia which is jointly held by SBE and UCM in the first period. This cultural course is definitely more alike to the general education stuff instead of business-related, thus quite interesting if you want to explore out of the normal business framework. Talking about the course, be ready to find many Asians around you as at least to my understand, many students from Hong Kong and South Korea take that.
There are one lecture and one tutorial per week, it’s seem the workload is not heavy but the point is the readings you have to go through for each tutorial, around 100 pages per week. The lecture explains some models and concepts in the readings but many people tend to skip lecture and prepare the materials themselves, at most you can skip one lecture and two tutorials for this course. Each PBL session is lead by one student who is either assigned it volunteered to be the Discussion Leader and notes taken by a secretary, as mentioned before, preparation is of utmost importance as the PBL really dig into every single article assigned for the week. At the same time, participation in the discussion is useful in a sense that the misunderstanding can be clarified and build some new concepts from the interaction with course mates.
For the exam, unlike the normal practice in Hong Kong, the exam venue is in MECC which is a expo center near the train station but not inside the university. It takes about 20 minutes to get there by bus or 30 minutes by bike from the Main Guesthouse, so be ready to go there earlier. When you arrive the exam hall, the seat number is still unknown and the way is to ask the examiner in the area of your block (each course has an assigned block which can be found on the board in front of the exam hall). One more interesting thing is that food and drink are allowed during the exam which are prohibited in Hong Kong and there is permit to go to washroom with maximum twice.
The study style in UM is quite different from many places, at least to Hong Kong, which I didn’t get used to at the very beginning but soon kind of like it as it’s more effective to study and exchange ideas in a group.

Enjoy your study in UM and stay stunned for the future blogging!

Transportation in Europe 

Transport – Train, Flight and Bus 
OV-chip Card

In The Netherlands, traveling is definitely an easy task to better understand the cities. The most convenient way is to get an OV-chip card at the train station, which is similar to Octopus Card in Hong Kong and simply speaking a transport card. It’s €7.5 for the anonymous one and for the personal one which is more complicated has to contact the student office in the university but there is some travel discounts you can enjoy with the card.
Train

It’s normal to travel by train. In Netherlands, NS train and Veolia are two most common trains. For NS train, it’s highly recommended to buy group ticket by asking and joining the group on Facebook – NS Group Ticket. This definitely saves a lot as the return group ticket for 10 people is just €70 altogether.

Forget to check out 

If you forget to check out when traveling just easily go to the OV card website to trace your transaction record and ask for refund which will be transferred to your bank account. But it’s just invalid for NS train, in this case you can just directly chat with the NS officer on Facebook.
Budget Airline


To cross the broader, budget airline is definitely the fastest but cheap way. Here I recommend some of the airlines:

1. Ryan Air 

Most of the time, there is cheap ticket starting from €5. The ticket is cheap not because it’s unsafe but in fact they earn from the checkin and luggage requirement. Online check in between 30 days and 2 hours prior to departure is a must. Also, brooding pass has to be printed out and ask for stamping at the check in counter when arrive. Otherwise, additional charge of €90 will be charged which raised the price of your cheap ticket!

Also, do check the size of your bag as oversized hand carry bag is punished for €45.

2. Easy jet 

Another budget airline but much more professional in a sense that it’s just like the normal airline. Can either check in online or at the airport, if check in online, just print the broading pass and go directly to the gate, no stamping is needed.
Bus


Bus is always the cheapest way to get around the countries.

1. Flixbus 

I took Flixbus the most as it departs directly from Maastricht train station to Liege, Brussels and Paris. At the same time, mobile check in is possible and you can always can €3 discount voucher from the ISN office. If you have to cancel the ticket, simply do it online and you can get a voucher for the same amount you paid with one year validity.
2. Megabus 

If you book the ticket at least 3 months earlier, it’s possible to get a €1 ticket (my friend got one from Brussels to Munich for the Oktoberfest). But the space is a bit narrower than Flixbus and you have to print hard copy for the ticket.
3. Eurolines 

Online booking involves a one-time €3 reservation fee so try to group your booking to save more. Check in must be done with the driver with hard copy ticket and if there is an office nearby, have to check in with the counter staff and get a access pass to get in the bus. There’s socket in the bus so no worry if your phone has no battery.

I took Euroline from Brussels Nord to Lille at €12 one way, excluding the reservation fee but my friend said OuiBus is way cheaper at €9 one way from Brussels as well do try to search for more bus line of possible.
Stay tuned and more information about my exchange journey will be shared!!

 

Pre – arrival to Maastricht

Pre – arrival to Maastricht

Prior to arrival should be the most time-consuming and troublesome period.
My To-Do-List is always full and I’m stuffed with here and there. 


1. Visa application 

Visa is mandatory for stay over 90 days. 

MU requires students to have all the documents scanned and sent to the visa office, hang on! Is to have all documents, including every single page of the passport to be color scanned!! 

But, that’s not the most troublesome part still. Have to send the approved documents, actually are just 3 pieces of A4 papers to visa office, by courier or regular mail! Lucky me to have a friend staying in Maastricht to hand in the documents for me, wohooo! Otherwise, at least HKD300 is needed for courier or a month for regular mail! 

After a few weeks, I guess 3 but not 5 as mentioned by the visa office, I can finally go to the local embassy for my visa application and fingerprints taken. Yet, have to wait for a week after that though. 

That means altogether about one and a half month is needed for the whole visa application and collection process. 


2. International flight ticket 

From HK to Maastricht, there is no direct flight, transit flight is the only choice. People may choose to stop at Amsterdam or Brussels where trains are available to get to Maastricht. This time, I chose to arrive at Amsterdam which seems like more to be exchanging in The Netherlands, haha! I book my flight around 2 months prior under the promotion package of Taiwan – HK – Europe return (arrive at Amsterdam and depart at Brussels) at just HKD3875, unbelievably cheap! With my extra flight ticket to Taiwan, the total fare is just around HKD4500. So… Keep an eye on the promotion package!! 


3. Intra-city transfer 

From Amsterdam to Maastricht, I chose to get on a train which is typically the most convenient way and I guess comfortable after a long haul flight. 

I asked in a Facebook page for group ticket NS-Group Ticket, people responded quickly and there are cheap tickets! But have to transfer via ING e-banking which I don’t have before arriving Maastricht, that forced me to give up the cheap one!!!

Or you may directly buy a single way ticket at the yellow machine (with coins) or line up in the counter in Amsterdam airport for 26.1 euro. But people said we can actually get one day pass with just 15euros, do try to have this one online!!

IMG_0497


4. Housing 

Two type of accommodations are most common in Maastricht, guesthouse and shared apartment. Searched for apartment at first but in vein as I’m actually staying for just 4.5 months but my friend is staying for a year, which can hardly find the housing to cater both of us. That’s why we turned to guesthouse which is said to be the father point of international  students, it’s something similar to hostels in HK I think. 

We book the room through SSH which is recommended by my friend in Maastricht. First, registration fee of 12.5euro was paid then housing rent (depends on the room type, mine is the cheapest at 369euro a month) and contract fee of 50euro are the following. Vacancy shrieked and room rate kept raising, so keep track on that and book earlier. The best thing about SSH is that the officer can always be easily reached through email, unexpectedly fast like a few hours sometimes! They are really eager to answer any of the requests like booking, changing room, choosing roommate and other enquiry. 

IMG_0502
Scenery from the guesthouse

5. Pick Up Service

There is an international student association namely ISN which gathers all exchange students together, do follow their Facebook page! We are lucky that we pumped into the ISN members outside the Maastricht Central Station and they kindly bring us to the guesthouse even we didn’t reserve.

Also, there are different activities from ISN, like party, dinner, culture night, tours, etc. I went to the Cultural Night which is actually a place for you to chat with some Dutch snacks but I’m sure we’ll come across these during the first day of introduction and taste there.


6. Others

If you have any question just ask in the Facebook group of Sharing is caring which can answer every of your enquiry! Also, The rent/sell bike in Maastricht gives you everything you may need for the bike! Yet, please bear in mind the bike here is different from those in Hong Kong or China as they are really tall even i’m 1.7m, I still think it’s difficult to handle! Do ask clearly before you get the bike and also see you can resell it back to the seller when you’re gone to save more!^^

When everything is settled, it’s just to wait for the journey!